Managed Print Services for Corporate Business

There is a requirement for printed material in the daily work and business needs of the corporate companies. There are different printed materials like stationery, letterheads and business envelopes, brochures and catalogs to even leaflets and fliers.

Then there are daily requirements of official printed material like letters and agreements as well. Telecommunication is also an important facet of modern day offices. Fax machines and data transfer is also vital for corporative function and is that very very done.

If you consider the requirements of different kinds of technical services within an office, you will know the devices used. These are printers, color printers, photocopying machines and fax machines among many others.

More and more corporate establishments are attempting to reduce overhead costs and that of running the daily establishment costs. In addition, in doing so they are keen on outsourcing these aspects of the daily administration.

The main advantage of outsourcing the workload is that of a hassle free operation. The company is then free from the daily business of maintenance and repair of these devices at any point of times. There are additional costs of the paper and the ink of different types from which the company is free as well.

Managed Print Services

There are modern day options of different machines and equipments that are available for performing different types of print services. There are colored print jobs and a variety of paper materials that need to be printed in bulk as well.

Because of the availability of a large variety of equipments, it is possible to process different types of printing services and in bulk quantities. Moreover, there are companies that are also providing specialized services in these as well.

Managed Print Services Companies

It is true that plenty of work needs to be processed for the company's daily functioning. At the same time doing these individually for the company entails huge costs that include financial as well as time constraints.

At the same time, there are companies that are engaged in providing the same services for different companies. It is their specialty profession and so they are fully equipped with the latest machinery and equipments.

So how do these companies perform?

There are two ways that the outsourcing company can be of effective service to your work and commercial functioning. They can take care of all your bulk order for printed material requirements. Neither do you need to buy expensive machinery for this nor do you need hire the services of an experienced technical professional for the same.

Secondly, the managed print services also provide different machines in your office like a computer printer or a fax machine. The maintenance and running costs of the ink and paper are all inclusive of the charges for hiring these equipment from the company.

The company will also be responsible for maintenance and repair of the same in case of difficulties in operation. There will be periodic checking of the equipments undertaken by the company to ensure flawless performances



Source by [lakajira]

Hidden Advantages of Outsourcing Services for the Car Loan Industry

Let us face the reality that today, we live in a ‘do-it-yourself’ way of life. As they should, people want to show off their auto repairs, home improvement projects, and many other tasks that majority of us would more often not seek professionals to perform the task, as they just prefer to do it by themselves.

It is absolutely a great value in a number of ways. You can gain expertise from your experience. Sometimes, it does not necessarily mean that it is a better way to go from doing something by yourself because oftentimes, it pays more to hand over and look someone for help.

Many of the car loan businesses are beginning to worry about not only getting in the game but also in maximizing their returns with all sizes racing to compete in the lending market. To outsource car loan business services, many industry experts understand that it is often considered more cost-effective.The most obvious reason for doing this is because industries don’t have to hire new staffs or underwriters solely for car loan operations and services. You have to keep in mind that those industries are also avoiding the other expenses related to assisting the infrastructure associated with an internal underwriting team.

But the advantages don’t stop there because there are a number of hidden advantages that many businesses fail to consider when entertaining ideas of outsourcing their car loan business processing that includes staffing and funding. Here are some of the hidden advantages of outsourcing for car loan business:

Increase the Number of Loans that Leads to More Net Profit

Just consider it as any consumer business committing to sales. As this dealer management is all about being able to see, looking for your niche and catering your offers to the biggest needs of your dealers. Better and stronger relationship with dealers and having more dealerships in the network in order to drive portfolio growth is one of the end goals of outsourcing some services when you are in the car loan business.

Improved Relationships with Customers

Your staff will be able to intensify its focus on strengthening relationships with your customers- making visits, gathering feedback and better addressing their needs that will drive growth for your car loan business portfolio.

A Guideline that Allows the Outsourcing Provider to Serve as an Extension of Your Car Finance Team

Your outsourced car loan provider should be able to efficiently, quickly, and easily customize its financing scorecard to fit your representation. By doing this, it guarantees that making a decision for car loan financing is consistent and fits your appetite and business plan.

Access to Consultation and Expertise

It allows your business to avoid common pitfalls that businesses fall victim to when trying to get in-house functions off the ground when outsourcing your car loan business processing. Through outsourcing, those businesses must hire the expertise that is readily available.

After-Hours Process

By waiting until the next business day to respond to proposals, don’t miss out on those deals especially over the weekend when many consumers have time to hunt for motorcycles, cars, and trucks.

It will absolutely offer a significant benefit over businesses with in-house operations that are confined to traditional business hours when you have an access to after-hours processing service.

Are you ready to revolutionize the way you do business? Grow your business by outsourcing.



Source by [lakajira]

Social Media for Small Businesses

Social media has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Businesses of all size and shapes have started making the most of available mediums. Today we will try to anatomize tips on social media for small businesses. There are a plethora of small businesses eyeing social medium to promote their business/services. However, majorly these small businesses are failing or not being able to make optimum use of social media for their business growth. There are many theories and strategies on how to effectively use social media for established brands, but the topic social media for small businesses is seldom addressed. According to Digital state of eMarketing India 2017 Octane Research:

60% small businesses promote their business on social media. 50% focus on SEO and 35% use multichannel marketing funnel.

70% small businesses consider content strategy as their primary marketing activity.

52% business owners are using social media as to efficiently address customer engagement.

More than 20% of business owners said that they are making 50% plus profit using social media.

The primary reasons for the low turnout are uncertainty on an application of social media, calculating return on investment and persuade employees/stakeholders to clinch social media. Hence it is important to address the elephant in the room and analyze how beneficial is Social media for small businesses.

Social media for small businesses is a great way for emerging businesses to generate lead and build a reputation. If regularly updated, social media can deliver more results as compared to traditional mediums. Social media for small businesses gives brands an edge of control over the content that they want to post. Also, since social media is a two-way dialogue process, it helps businesses to instantly identify what is benefitting them. Social media for small businesses also helps generate Word of Mouth, which is one of the best tools for emerging businesses.

Social Media for small businesses | 10 Tips to effectively use Social Media

Define your Target Audience

The first and foremost important part that small businesses should focus on is to define their target audience. This helps small businesses to device their social media strategy accordingly. The target audience should be defined basis age group, sex, location, users’ online behaviors, their likes, interests, and preferences. For niche products, business owners can even target users based on their birthdays, anniversaries and important milestone. Audience targeting plays a very crucial role in the outcome of the results. For e.g.: a local shop selling footwear should not target users with interest in entertainment. The shop definitely won’t get the desired results.

Set achievable goals

Overnight success is a myth. Small businesses must understand this basic fact. Generally, when a new business starts selling on social media, there is palpable excitement is achieving more than set targeted sales. Businesses need to set goals which are upwards and forward. To achieve enormous goals, small businesses start updating social feed with multiple updates in shorter duration. This leads to user’s disinterest in the product/service. The set goals should be in sync with brand’s core capabilities and expertise. For e.g.: if a business is into selling shoes, they shouldn’t set a goal to repair maximum shoes in their area.

Choose the right medium

By now everyone knows, social media is for free. Even paid campaigns can be conducted at a relatively low cost as compared to traditional mediums. It is in this scenario, that we often see small businesses jumping the bandwagon and creating profiles on all the available platforms. Creating social profile doesn’t hamper brand image, but aggressively promoting a brand on wrong platforms can lead to brand losing its potential customers. Hence it is advisable for SME’s to first identify the right platform through which they can maximize their business. For e.g.: If a shoe selling brand tries to aggressively sell on LinkedIn, they won’t get a plausible response as compared to promotions on Facebook/Instagram.

Promote your core product/services

Since each and every business is riding in the social media wave, it is important for a them to promote their core product/services. Nowadays, we see a lot of businesses promoting their services as well as promoting peripheral products/services, which revolves around their core product/services. Majority of the times, this SME’s doesn’t have capabilities to fulfill a requirement, which can lead to a bad word of mouth for their business on social media platforms. Let us go back to our example; if a shoe seller is trying to aggressively promote socks instead of shoes, it is not going to benefit the business in the long run.

Create quality content

Now that we have covered the topics of identifying the target audience, setting achievable goals, choosing the right medium and promoting the right product/services let us now take a look at the type of content a business should promote on their social pages. A business should always focus on creating good quality content rather than not-good quantity content. Even if the business updates their page once in a day as long as it is relevant to their business, advocates about its core products send across a clear message it is considered as a good quality content. Antagonistically, if a business posts multiple updates which aren’t even relevant to the business’s products and services leads to users considering the business as fake/spam. Also, new businesses should try and refrain from promoting other businesses on their social platforms initially.

Create a content calendar

Making a small business successful on social platforms is no small task. It takes a lot of efforts for the businesses to keep up their conversion ratio. One such effort is to create a content calendar. Small businesses must anticipate important events and create a content calendar accordingly. Ideally, a content calendar must be planned a month in advance but an even weekly content calendar is highly recommended. This helps businesses to avoid any last minute hassles, strategize much more effectively and it also helps in creating curiosity amongst its loyal fans/customers.

Test and re-test

Social media is highly unpredictable. The content a business posts today, might not work for tomorrow. Hence, small businesses must always test their content before publishing it on their pages. Testing content also applies to the platform a small business chooses to promote. Small business owners must always don the consumer’s hat before posting about any product feature, updates, schemes or offers. A consumer’s perspective is the key when testing the content that has to be uploaded.

Look for inspiration

Small businesses must always look for inspiration from a competitor who is successful in the same category. Copy pasting competitors idea or content is not the answer. Small businesses must look for the kind of content its competitors are putting up and derive their own strategies subsequently. Inspiring content/stories always make a business to strive to create their own content that is appreciated by one and all. It helps in increasing brand consideration, brand visibility thereby increasing conversions for the business.

Calculate ROI

Even a small promotional budget is not justifiable if there is no mechanism to calculate its return on investment. It is more important in case of small businesses. It is very important for a small business to keep a tab on the budgets allocated to any promotions and the subsequent ROI related to it. If a certain promotion is not doing well or the business is not getting desired results, the brand custodian can always look for other platforms to generate quality conversions.

Analyze and Re-strategize

There can be umpteen instances where a particular campaign/promotion might not work for a business. That doesn’t mean that the promotion is wrong or the product/service is not good. Doing an analysis of the campaign is as important as setting the objective. This helps the business to formulate their upcoming strategies in more effective ways. At the end of every campaign, brands must note down the learning’s from that campaign and identify if the content/idea was appreciated by their fans or not. This helps businesses to skip the non-performing updates from future communications.

Final Thoughts

Social media for small businesses is definitely beneficial and fruitful. If followed correctly, small businesses can benefit tremendously from the power of social media promotions.



Source by [lakajira]

Local Business Benefits From Blog Writing and SEO Services

If you have a local business that is focused on a relatively narrow geographical location within your country or state, then you can benefit from local blog writing and SEO services. The reason for this should be obvious, although many small businesses are suffering from a lack of publicity and are not making the most of their customer base.

Even today, people will go to Yellow Pages if they want a service and Gumtree, Craigslist or eBay if they want to purchase products at cut prices. Few will carry out an online search for specific websites or blogs. That’s where you could be missing out!

Seek Out Your Own Local Business Services

There is more to the internet than those well-known sites, and there is no reason whatsoever why your home or local business cannot compete with these giants. Many have done it, and all it takes is to create your own website.

Sure, you will be unlikely to catch those who search specifically on such sites for local sources of what they are looking for. However, if you set up your own website or blog locally, then you are highly likely to catch those people living in your area that enter a search term rather than a web address.

Let’s explain that a bit more comprehensively. If you are selling cars or run a business repairing and then selling vans, then you won’t catch those that immediately go to Gumtree, Craigslist or eBay if they are looking for a new white van. However, the modern ‘white van man’ is increasingly beginning to cast their net wider, and to carry out online searches for ‘white vans,’ ‘refurbished vans,’ and ‘cheap vans for sale.’

How to Compete With Your Local Business Competition

In such cases it is perfectly possible for you to compete with the above mentioned sales sites, and have your own website listed at the top of Google’s results pages for specific keywords (search terms.) There are many local business benefits available to anybody with either knowledge of websites and how to generate the right compelling content, or for those knowing where to outsource the web content and SEO optimization needed to get them to the top of Google’s rankings!

The secret is to use local advertising. In fact, you can write a few blog posts related to your local area, and then focus your efforts on local SEO. If you are unsure how to optimize your webs pages or blog posts to maximize the likelihood of your pages being listed on Google or other search engines when people search for local suppliers of what you are selling, then there are many people that can help you do so!

Local Web Content and SEO Optimization Services

You should be able to find a number of potential local writing services and SEO optimization services. They can help you find a local source of what you are searching for and assist you in promoting your own local website. It is not difficult to make a few small changes to your site to make sure that your web pages are published on Google Local listings.



Source by [lakajira]

Business Email Service Providers Are Preferred by Corporate

The traditional marketing ideas are making way for the new online methods of marketing. The reason for this transformation is based on the fact that most of the companies have achieved a high level of growth through online marketing and this growth has been achieved at a very fast rate. The pace of online marketing can not be matched by the traditional methods of marketing. Thus the corporate world prefers to opt for the online mode of marketing. Big and small companies all look for first rate e-mail service providers that gives web based ideas for marketing that would help them take their business to a much higher level. Web based marketing technique is not a one faceted but there are a number of sides to it. However, among all the elements and sections of the online technique of marketing, email marketing is most popular.

The clients who are targeted and those who are interested have the highest probability of responding when the online marketing method is used for interacting with them for developing and promoting the business. The major reason for the popularity of corporate email services in the present world of business is definitely the high probability of interaction with the clients of the company. The need to send bulk emails, which have been drafted in a very interesting manner such that it can draw the attention of the people, to clients selected by the company is sufficed by the business email service providers. The companies are able to promote in a robust manner and achieve huge development at a very fast pace through corporate email services.

There are several well known firms that are backed with high skilled man and advanced tech resources that and they are corporate sector’s business e-mail service providers. The manpower and technology is intelligently intertwined to work for providing a high level of satisfaction to the clients. The firms offer a high rate of customer satisfaction by providing the clients with online promotional offers that are effective for the business along with interestfully formatted business emails.

The e-mail service providers dispatch emails after designing them to the company’s selected group of clients who intend to develop business through the online mode. The corporate emails which are sent to the customers are informative and in some cases even introductory. All the information that the clients seek for such as the unique characteristics of the company, the latest services on offer, etc. are provided by these emails. The customers who the company targets and sends the email to, also get access to the contacts of the company and through this the clients themselves can also carry out a check about the unique offers that the company claims to provide. The genuineness of the company can also be verified with the help of these business emails. As far as online marketing technique is concerned there are several areas which have not yet been explored and thus the corporate sector employ professionals who can actually tap all the field of marketing through the online mode to gain great success in business.

Business VoIP Service

The new age businesses are looking to integrate VoIP into their setup of communications throughout the office. This technology, which is something that virtually every modern workstation has, is growing in popularity and works through your existing broadband connection, eliminating the need for a landline or even a cell phone and is significantly better than both.

When it comes to VoIP for Business service

It is imperative that you make certain the service contains the features that you need for your business. In addition, you need to ensure that you are aware of all the requirements on your end for the VoIP system to work efficiently.

For example, if your corporation already has a large amount of phone lines then you will likely be required to have a higher high-speed internet connection than a business that only has one or two phone lines. The reason for this is to ensure the quality of voice that is transmitted through the phone service.

Comparing Business VoIP Service

When it comes to choosing the company you would like to obtain your business VoIP from – it is imperative that you evaluate the following

– Sound quality of the phone service

– Customer service quality

– Technology capabilities

– Up-front costs

– Operational costs

– Other implementation costs

– Quality of security provided

In addition, you need to determine whether or not the business service will operate on open standard internet protocol (IP) to route your calls. Open standard IP will greatly reduce your costs such as eliminating licensing fees while providing you greater flexibility when it comes to customization as well as new feature integration. Moreover, there will be no restrictions on future business expansions.

Return on Investment Comes with the Right Business VoIP Set-up

In order to get the best return on investment or ROI, as a business, you need to find the right business VoIP solution to implement within your business. This is a critical move and it is not one that should be overlooked. The wrong VoIP set-up could drastically drop your business’ reputation leading to a decrease in customers and sales. The right business VoIP Service, however, could very easily give your reputation a significant boost, an increase in sales as well as customers, and provide you the ability to connect with your employees and customers in ways you have never been able to before. See why VoIP for Business is right for you.

Managed Services – The Secret Sauce For A Successful Managed Services Business

Just for the moment, consider yourself a moderately successful IT service provider who sees the growing opportunity in managed services, is quickly developing the technology to support this burgeoning market and knows the secret – has in fact the secret “sauce” – to managing a successful managed services business.

Now liken yourself and your IT business to the owner of a fine dining establishment. The restaurant owner knows that his professional livelihood is built on the “meat and potatoes” of his operation, namely his fine selection of highly quality meats cooked to perfection. And he is convinced that his culinary success is due to the secret “sauce” he has created to adorn each entree. He even has a signature garnish that he places on top of each entree that makes it highly unique to him and a cut above his competition.

This same analogy applies to your IT business. Your company is probably beginning to shift away from the technology and the tools that deliver services to a realization that the managed services business is the “meat and potatoes” upon which your future livelihood will rest. Your “culinary” success will be due, in large part, to the special “sauce” you create to adorn each managed service you offer. That special “sauce” is your marketing strategy. The garnish you place on each managed service is the one unique fact or feature about your business -and how you market it – that sets you apart from your competitors.

So, what are the “meat and potatoes” of your business – the managed services you plan to offer your clients as you transition to a successful managed service business? How are you going to marketing those services – what “sauce” or “sauces” are you going to create to sell them? What “garnish” will you put on top – what fact or feature about your business is unique enough to separate and differentiate you from your competition?

First, let’s talk about managed services. This is the “meat and potatoes” of your operation.

To optimize your overall performance as a successful managed services business, here are five key elements of the business to master. Mastery of these “secrets of success” will determine how well you do in the marketplace and positively impact your success and survivability as a managed services provider (MSP).

    1. Core Technologies. The definition of managed services is expanding from infrastructure management and remote maintenance to the inclusion of software as a service. Selecting the right technology is one key piece of an effective MSP strategy. Successful MSPs typically use one of two types of software solutions – Professional Services Automation Software (PSA) and Remote Monitoring and Management Software (RMM). PSA blends such functions as customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation, customer billing and troubleshooting into one single comprehensive platform. RMM allows the MSP to proactively maintain and troubleshoot customer systems and networks off-site.
    2. Emerging Technologies. Up until now, MSPs were able to master basic PC and server administration. Today’s MSPs face new challenges as the landscape of managed services continues to evolve. Now these MSPs have to master cloud and SaaS managements and learn how to tap into systems like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Apps, Microsoft Windows Azure and Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Keeping pace with these options requires constant networking. Successful MSPs make this one of their biggest priorities.
    3. Business Leadership. As you move from being a technology driven business to being a managed services provider, commitment from the CEO and top management is critical. Managed services will stall or fail completely without this commitment. CEOs don’t have to master the MSP technologies but what they do need to do is this:
      1. Promote recurring revenue streams as much as possible instead of quick break fix project work.
      2. Track and improve customer service levels rather than billable hours.
      3. Schedule frequent meetings to advise customers on those service levels and to discuss technologies that can further improve overall business performance.
    1. Hiring & Firing, Sales Training & Compensation. The jury is still out on whether MSPs need to fire or replace staff as they push into managed services or work with existing staff to generate more and more recurring revenue. Sometimes MSPs find it works better if they augment their staff with outside talent, though many times this talent can be found within their existing rank-and-file. In more traditional IT companies, sales teams are generally paid a one-time commission for special projects revenue. In the managed services market, however, recurring revenue models create new opportunities and new challenges. The biggest challenge is keeping salespeople focused on longer-term, ongoing contracts rather than quick-hit project work. Without the proper compensation plans in place, salespeople may make half-hearted managed services calls and end up pitching a new technology product instead of the managed services you hope to sell. The best MSP in the most successful managed services business has clearly communicated compensation plans with well-defined goals and priorities that motivate the sales professional to look for more business and more opportunities for managed services from either existing clients or new ones.
  1. Service Level Agreements. Successful MSPs know that without a well-designed and understood service level agreement in place, the clients will be expecting one thing and the MSP another. Using a solid service level agreement shows the client that you know what you are doing and that you will put both your reputation and wallet behind your word.

Now, let’s talk about how you are going to marketing these managed services. What “sauce” or “sauces” are you going to create to sell this business model and bring value to the customer. The signature “sauce” you create and the ingredients you use to make it is the key to your success. Here are the three ingredients you need:

Marketing & Client Education. Managed services generates a significant amount of information about end users’ activities and needs. Successful MSPs use that information to anticipate those needs and recommend applications and value-added services to help clients run their businesses more effectively. Using that information as part of a marketing strategy to better educate the customer is paramount. Many MSPs believe the client’s lack of knowledge and understanding about the managed services business model is their greatest inhibitor to success. When the time comes to describe your managed services portfolio to clients, remember these three words – less is better. Skip the high-tech acronyms, the techie bells and whistles, and focus on the benefits to your client. Concentrate only on the services you offer that bring them real value, like customer satisfaction or service levels.

Marketing Strategies. To date, managed services has been about the technology, but today’s successful MSPs are more focused on how to run their business well and deliver value to their customers. They know the importance of a successful business model, targeted sales strategies and value propositions and they are marketing all of that to their clients as part of their managing services portfolio. But the driving force behind the push to invest in a sales and marketing strategy is the company’s commitment to sell the customer on the value the MSP can provide.

The New Marketing Model. Successful MSPs know that technology alone is not going to change their business. They know it’s all about creating a business model of managed services and equipping themselves with the skills to run their business and to market it to a targeted audience. To build a successful marketing model, you need to do three things:

  1. Define your product (managed services) from the client’s perspective and sell it that way. Let client’s know the advantages of this approach. Let them know you can provide them with software and spread costs over a number of clients. Tell them you can build more application experience than in-house staff. Assure them that your key software systems are kept up to date, available and managed for performance by experts. Let them know they will always have access to product and technology experts. Show them you can reduce their costs to a predictable monthly fee.
  2. Know your client and let them know you know them. Let them know that you know it takes them six to 12 months to commit to a services program. Speak to them in their own language by speaking to the pains that you know that they have because they are common in the industry. Then show how you are uniquely qualified to resolve these pains and problems.
  3. Use sales and marketing tools to your advantage to reach your client and, use only those with a proven return on investment. Schedule as many visits and meetings with the client as you can to advise them on service levels and to discuss new and emerging technologies to further improve business performance. Invite them to events like small business luncheons to get their thoughts and opinions on business trends or use of technology. Prepare hand-outs describing the benefits of predictable, flat-rate, proactive managed services programs. Create ongoing marketing and PR campaigns to announce new software products and technologies. Actively solicit customer endorsements.

Now, once again, liken yourself and your IT business to the owner of a fine dining establishment. We have defined the “meat and potatoes” of your operations – all of the managed services upon which your business in now built. We have given you the key ingredients to make your special “sauce” or “sauces” – client education, key marketing strategies and the new marketing model. Now all you need is that signature garnish you place on each of your products that is unique to you and you alone and a cut above your competition.

That garnish is a statement of who you are and how you present yourself. Are you ingenious? Are you creative? Are you capable of delivering the services required in a knowledgeable and innovative way? Do you communicate reliability and dependability? Are you empathic towards your client and their needs? What is it about you that makes the client want to do business with you and nobody but you? These are the intangible things that set you and your managed services business apart from your competitors. This is what your clients will remember.

This is a concise overview of what it takes to succeed as an MSP. Know your product. Know the market. Know your customer. Then move ahead and capitalize on the opportunities in managed services.

Will DRM Save the Record Industry?

Without a doubt the single most influential agent of change in business trends in the last ten to twenty years has been the internet. There is virtually no business segment or market that has gone unchanged by this powerful force. But of all of the various businesses impacted by cyberspace, the music industry has to the one that has seen the most dramatic change and the greatest challenge to keep up, adapt and survive an onslaught of change unprecedented in its history.

The first major challenge that cyberspace brought to the music business was a complete shift to how music would be sold to music fans worldwide. In what can only be described as an avalanche, the music buying public virtually abandoned conventional record stores and retail outlets and took the majority of their music purchasing business online. But this mass influx of business could not be tracked to any one web site that was executing the revolution. Because of a revolution in how bands and Indie record labels do business online, the music audience followed and began buying their CDs and even concert tickets directly from artists or record labels online and getting those products instantly via downloads.

But as drastic as the market changes this paradigm shift in consumer behavior represented, it was nothing compared to what the internet had in store for the music world. The next wave of change represented a threat to the music business so serious that it had the potential of putting the music industry out of business forever. When music consumers began to share digital music electronically over the internet using file sharing software such as Kazaa, Limeware and BitTorrent, suddenly it was possible for a music customer to access all the music they wanted for free by simply downloading this music from another internet user’s computer.

The plummet in music sales as result of these two forces was drastic and traumatic to the music world in general. At first, the music business executives were at a loss of exactly how to go about stopping the widespread file-sharing phenomenon. They tried to shut down the software services that provided the networks to users with lawsuits and other punitive actions. These litigations took a long time and cost a huge amount of money and all the while the flood of free music going out over the internet continued to increase. Worse of all, when they did slow down one file sharing network, it seemed many more cropped up to replace it which began to look like a nightmare scenario of constant lawsuits against a never-ending and constantly growing enemy.

Public pleas to the music loving public were another attempt to appeal to the conscience of the music world that if artists could not get paid, there would be no more new music. But the opposite seemed to be the case. As more and more Indie musicians began to capitalize on file sharing and using it as a method of marketing, the quantity and quality of good music only seemed to increase in this new music marketplace.

The final attempt seemed to be this technology called DRM. DRM is a digital “lock” that would be required to go on every piece of music released on the internet. Music with DRM would not be playable except to customers who had a legal right to use it. At first, this seemed like a viable solution. But even DRM didn’t stop the flood of lost revenue through file sharing. And hackers seemed more than happy to learn to undo any technical locks the music industry could come up with.

So as we move into the last half of the first decade of this century, the music industry is learning to work with this new music marketplace rather than fight it. And by learning lessons from the Indie labels and how to serve customers in a digital world, there seems to be a new solution on the way but one that is dictated on the customer’s terms rather on the terms of the big music labels. Somehow, that seems like it is the way it should have been all along.

When Banks Explode

The proliferation of branches of banks in most American cities has become so epidemic that it is hard not to notice the dominance of this kind of business on any street corner in your town. In many cases, a busy intersection which might be used for retail operations such as fast food restaurants, cleaners, gas stations and quick stop stores has been taken over by banks. In some cases you will see three of the four corners of a popular intersection in town occupied by different bank branches.

It makes you wonder, just how many banks do we need in town and why are the banking institutions spending so much money to put branches in virtually every location that has open space? It is a business trend that gets your attention and it makes you wonder what is driving this bank explosion. After all, in many cases there are not more customers for those banks. You have to wonder how banks can cost justify such expansion when the growth of bank branches is not even in step with population growth in a given community.

The phenomenon has become more profound in the last ten years than ever before. And much of it has to do with changes in how banks are regulated and the financial objectives that these branches are targeting, financial objectives that bring big money to the banking institutions spreading all over town.

· Regulatory Changes. The rules for how many branches a bank can own and where they can open them have changed significantly in the last decade. Now banks can open branches inside grocery stores and at a greater density than before. And this has set off the growth war of branch banking that we notice going on all over town.

· An explosion of services. Along with a freeing up of the branch banking laws, commercial banks can offer many more services than ever before. While we think of banks in terms of checking and savings accounts only, if you walk into the bank, you will be buried with offers for a huge variety of financial services including varieties of investment services and different forms of credit arrangements. And these services are huge money makers for your local banker.

· How banks really make their money. Obviously banks don’t make much money just keeping your checking account working correctly. But using checking as a loss leader, banks can capture your business to offer credit services and investment vehicles that yield them much higher returns on the use of your funds. Further, the fees that can be applied for overdraft accounts and other fee based services are a pure profit mechanism for banks.

· Visibility counts. Each new customer a bank lands takes revenue out of competitor’s banks. And if they can capture your banking business, the money you store in your accounts is available for loans and interest they can realize by using your money while it is in their care. So they want to be visible to assure you think of them first when it is time to open a new account.

This trend is not likely to change any time soon. The competition in the banking industry is fierce and bankers are aggressive business people. So we should expect them to continue to work hard to capture the consumers business and make themselves available to consumers to steal your business away from competing banks. And while it might be troubling to see every street corner filled with bank branches, its part of the market system that makes our economy strong. And that is a good thing.

Virtual Employees

When we say something is “virtual” in modern terminology, we are almost always talking about something related to the internet. So Virtual Dating is dating using the internet. “Virtual” does not mean something that does not exist. But it implies you are replacing a normal physical entity with a real but for the most part unseen entity that lives online.

The trend in strategic business planning is to incorporate an aggressive “virtual marketing” plan with your traditional plans. So it makes sense that eventually the move to virtual resources would reach human resources with the availability of virtual employees.

In the last two or three years, virtual employment has taken off and become a very real resource for businesses wishing to tap into valuable experience and subject matter expertise that cannot be found locally. Agencies such as Team Double Click and Rent-A-Coder provide an army of ready to work professionals that can step in and get a job done quickly and efficiently for an employer.

The obvious first application of virtual workers is to subcontract to an online employment agency certain task specific projects that have a short beginning, middle and end. Building a new function into a web page is a good example of a project that can be packaged into an understandable project and signed over to a virtual consultant to perform the work and return to the online employer. The handling agencies collect funds via escrow so neither the employer or the consultant are at risk and the handling company claims a percentage of the fee as part of their pay for facilitating the partnership. Everybody wins.

But the concept of virtual employment is going beyond providing another variation on outsourcing to a consultant. Many virtual employment agencies provide administrative assistants, sales support and many other functions normally associated with a full time employee but those services are done “virtually”. A virtual office manager can have calls routed to his or her remote phone, emails redirected and conduct office meetings and negotiations with vendors via email or instant messaging. Using these modern tools, a virtual assistant can provide almost every function an on site assistant might be able to do but do so at a lower cost to the employer.

The virtual employment trend in business has obvious benefits for businesses that are in need of qualified help. It opens the door to recruitment sources that can supplement the local talent pool. Many times virtual staffing agencies may have on their “employee roles” people with a specialized background or skill. The agency is skilled at defining exactly what their client businesses need and matching up the right virtual employee to the job so the business has the right skill sets where they need them, when they need them and only for as long as they need them.

In addition to the benefits that virtual employment has for businesses to fill needs for skilled workers, it’s an excellent resource for talented workers who want to make a contribution to the business world on their own terms. Virtual workers almost universally work at home or where they chose to work. Often the work is task based with a deadline so the worker can select the hours that fits their family and personal schedules best. And, like working for a temp agency, the employee can build a resume with the agency that improves the quality of work they get over time.

Virtual staffing is a trend that has been a success for all involved as it has matured in the last few years. We can look for this twenty first century methodology for bringing in talented workers to continue to grow as more and more businesses get comfortable with staffing their employee ranks “virtually”.

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